Summary: As we look at the first Beatitude this morning, I wonder if those listening to Jesus wished they had a dictionary with them because it must have seemed like He was speaking a different language.
The Poverty of Self-Sufficiency
I’ve received some wonderful green and gold gifts recently. This Packer headband keeps my ears warm, and this cap announces my allegiance for all to see. This Packer Christmas stocking came filled with Snicker bars; and I even received some “Lambeau loafers” as slippers. These socks keep my feet warm; and this touchdown tape measure reminds me that the Pack is back. I even received a green and gold key, which I assume is to the Packer Hall of Fame, but I misplaced it somewhere. From head to toe, I can be decked out in the colors of heaven.
After being here for more than four years, I’ve come to the conclusion that some of you don’t understand “cheddar-speak.” And, since the Packers are doing well in the playoffs so far, I thought I would share with you some phrases from the “Cheesehead Dictionary” so that you will not only be able to comprehend this sermon, but also understand the post-game interviews this afternoon.
Brat – a Wisconsin tailgate special; has nothing to do with a spoiled kid.
Cheese curds – small pieces of fresh cheese that squeak when you bite into them.
Coupla-two-three – more than one; as in “Delmer and I ate a coupla-two-three brats.”
Hey – placed at the beginning or end of phrases for emphasis, as in, “Hey, how ‘bout them Bears?”
M’wakee – Wisconsin’s largest city, just down the lake from Mant’woc.
Stop-and-go-lights – What everyone else calls traffic signals.
Bubbler – What everyone else calls a drinking fountain.
Yah-hey – an affirmative response.
The Polka – How da angels dance in heaven.
As we look at the first Beatitude this morning, I wonder if those listening to Jesus wished they had a dictionary with them because it must have seemed like He was speaking a different language. While the words themselves weren’t difficult to understand, the message from the mount was extremely radical. Let me summarize what we learned last week.
Only believers can live out these Beatitudes.
They are a package deal – we can’t pick and choose the ones we like.
Belief must lead to behavior.
Jesus wants us to seek the applause of heaven. To be “blessed” means to be congratulated by Christ and applauded by the Almighty.
God wants to do a new thing in this New Year.
We also established that if we’re serious about being a committed Christian, we will strive to follow the example of the disciples by loving Jesus, learning from Him, and living out what He teaches us. I’d like to mention three additional points that will help us understand the language of the Savior’s sermon.
1. His message is positive. All eight characteristics that we should display in our lives are introduced with the word, “blessed.” God wants to give His approval to those who put Him first. I heard of a family that went to the state park for the day to enjoy the great outdoors. When they arrived they saw a whole row of signs that said, “No hunting, no fishing, no camping, no picnicking, no trespassing, no hiking!” At the bottom of another sign, in small print, they read, “This is your state park; enjoy it.” In this sermon, Jesus is giving us not a list of “don’ts” but a list of “do’s.” They are really “Be-attitudes” because this is how we should be in our attitudes and actions. When we exhibit these expressions of discipleship, we’ll hear the applause of heaven.
2. His teaching is filled with paradoxes. A paradox is something that is contradictory to what we’d normally expect. According to Jesus the way up is down in Luke 22:26: “The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” In Luke 17:33, He says, “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” In Matthew 11:25, He turns everything upside down when He says that little children can understand more than the wise and learned.
Nowhere is His preaching more filled with paradoxes than in the Beatitudes.
Only those who acknowledge their spiritual poverty can go to heaven.
God comforts those who cry, not those who are tough.
The meek will inherit the earth.
The way in which Jesus taught is also filled with paradoxes as He used the most common realities to explain the most profound truths: a mustard seed, a lost coin, and the work of a sower. Fernando Cascante writes: “Those who come to him for answers, He sends away with questions. Those who just want to have theological discussions, He brings down to earth.” He also points out that Jesus’ own life is one amazing paradox: “He is the king born in a manger; the righteous one who dies as a criminal; the Lord who came to serve; the sinless one who eats and drinks with sinners” (www.union-psce.edu/news/Publications/archive/jesus_teacher.shtml).