February 2nd, 2020
Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
The Joy of Being the Disciples
We often think of what we live for. Most people pursue their happiness with their family and with their loved ones. We do so. Everyone seeks for happiness. But, the view of happiness may be different. Some may think of the value of happiness as materials, which means if we have properties and wealth, we may be happy. Some may think of it as harmony and peace of family and with people. What do you mean by happiness for you?
The Scripture of today is a part of “the Sermon on the Mount.” It is a very famous Jesus’ sermon about the blessings to his disciples, called “the Beatitudes.” However, it is not simple to his twelve disciples, but it is extending to all Christians in the past, current, and future.
The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5 begins, says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak and taught them.” We can imagine what was happened at that event through these sentences. Many people came to Jesus because they heard about Jesus’ healing the sick. Jesus saw that many people come to him, and he went up to the mountain. Jesus’ act, “went up to the mountain,” means that he invited all people who come to him. He went up to the mountain to see all people who come to him and invite them all to his teachings.
Some may think that it is a kind of idealism because it sounds like that Jesus encourages people to live poor, to mourn, to be a peacemaker with a pure heart, and finally to be persecuted. In other words, it seems to like those things are that we cannot live out. If you think that it is an idealism, which we could not live it out, I would say, it is a dangerous thought, which is against Jesus. It might happen because some misunderstood Jesus’ teachings.
I want to explain the Beatitudes of Jesus as the attitudes, which Christian must have and as the joy of being the disciples of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Matthew 5:1-12, is called “the Beatitudes.” The beatitudes should be thought of as “be-attitudes.” This is, in reality, a deeper-life sermon. In presenting this sermon, Jesus called for a change in the thinking of the people about the Kin(g)dom of God. He rejected the more popular messianic expectations and outlined the creation of a new covenant community of God’s people, a disciples’ community. For Christians, the kin(g)dom is coming and will always come, as we pray with the Lord’s prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
The be-attitudes proclaim eight blessings to Christians: At the first blessing, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” means the humble attitude of Christians. We have to have a humble attitude in front of God. We cannot live without the grace of God. We cannot breathe, eat, and sleep without the grace of God. Therefore, we have to pray with gratitude. The Apostle Paul says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (Thessalonians 5:16-18). These people belong to the kin(g)dom of God because it says, “ for theirs is the kin(g)dom of heaven.”
At the second blessing, “Blessed are those who mourn” means “those who are in the attitude of caring deeply.” The word “mourn” used to designate mourning for the dead. To mourn is to care deeply, to know godly sorrow for sin, to be deeply concerned about the evil in the world, and to know the meaning of suffering because of sin, injustice, and perversion in society. The blessing, “for these people will be comforted by God,” guides us to think of the comfort by the Holy Spirit. For Christians, the Holy Spirit is the Comforter and the Counselor forever (John14:16).
At the third blessing, Jesus emphasizes the Christian attitude is gentle. The word “meek” means between anger and indifference. Meekness is not weakness; rather, it is the gentle spirit, the disciplined or controlled attitude. It means only the humble who can receive, who can learn or be taught, who can accept forgiveness, who can walk in grace, and who can live in love. In other words, I may say simply those who are an open mind, open heart and open the door to one another like our mission goals to the world.
At the fourth blessing, Jesus means the Christian attitude to seek a right relationship with God. Christians are not just those who know the teachings of Jesus, but also those who live them out in their daily lives. “Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” always try to seek God’s will in the side of God, not in the side of oneself.
And, at the fifth and sixth blessings, Jesus says, the attitudes of Christians should be merciful and pure in heart. Christians are the followers of Jesus Christ because they have been called and accepted by God. Christians have received mercy from God. Now they should become the channel to convey mercy to others in a pure heart. The word “mercy” carries the meaning of identification in the suffering of others, of going through something with others, of entering into another’s problem with understanding and acceptance. It is what God did for us in Christ, identifying with humanity and suffering on behalf of our sin.
The seventh blessing means the attitude of Christian as the peacemaker of God. We are called children of God because we are the peacemakers. The word “peace” does not mean simply the absence of evil but positively doing something with the well-being of another, seeking people’s highest good. Therefore, being a peacemaker is to work for the right relations between persons, all persons.
At the eighth blessing, Jesus implies Christians might be persecuted by keeping the right relationship with God in Christ. We must have different attitudes from those who will have their own will. This is the way of the cross in which God’s will cuts across the will of humanity. The kin(g)dom of God is breaking into time, calling persons to be disciples of Christ, living by Christ’s mercy and love.
The Beatitudes of the disciples of Jesus call us to the most exacting self-examination. When we serve people of God as the leaders of the church, we need to be careful three temptations: The first is a temptation to shine, which we have to avoid being proud as the leader. The second temptation is to whine, which it complains in behind or between persons. The last one is a temptation to recline, which is an attitude to look over or to see over. Through the Beatitudes, Jesus brings the issue of motive, asking that we serve not for the praise of people, not for conventional respectability, but with the integrity of heart. It is for the only joy of being the disciples. Walking with our Lord is our joy as Christians. The Beatitudes are the attitude of Christian to walking with our Lord Jesus Christ. Please keep this in your hearts, “always rejoice, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Thanks be to God. Amen.