“And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” – Matthew 5:2-4
Dearest Hope Family,
We continue to be excited for the chance to gather outdoors for our Vespers Service and to push ahead with our reflections on the life which Jesus calls “blessed” from the Beatitudes. Blessing is at a premium in a cursed and cursing world and that is why we have been eager to put Jesus’ first words of public ministry on display.
First words are defining, emblematic words. They reveal the heart and the motives and the character of the person presenting. One author writes, “Even before Jesus gives his first sermon we are prepared by the Gospel’s four preceding chapters to see the person of Jesus as extraordinary: his genealogy, nativity, baptism, temptations, and service have taught us already that Jesus is (just to collect his titles and names so far): Messiah, Son of David, Son of Abraham, “God Saves,” “God with Us,” Ruler-Shepherd, Nazarene, Baptizer with the Holy Spirit and Fire, the Father’s Priceless and Deeply pleasing Son, and Light of the Nations. We can hardly wait to hear what he has to say!”
Where does Jesus begin? What are Jesus’ first words here? What is this extraordinary person with these illustrious titles and claims actually conveying?
It is crucial to see where Jesus begins this inaugural address. Since first words are important words and since they do give us a window of insight into the heart of the speaker, it is intensely significant that Jesus begins, not with demands, but with blessing. Not with a list of rules but his unearned blessing. Not with hurdles to jump through to gain his favor but his sheer, gift-of-grace blessing. Not with stipulations that if you keep up your end of the bargain he will keep up his end of the agreement but his free and unending blessing. This already tells us something captivating and endearing about Jesus. He gives blessing before he commands behavior. He helps before he orders.
Divine blessings precede and so empower our human doing. We almost always think of the burdensome teaching and demands of Jesus and not very often of the gift, grace, and help of Jesus’ determination to bless his people and empower his people. But this is the God who made you and keeps you and works for your flourishing. He is the only God who blesses before he commands. These are the first words of Jesus’ first sermon and reveal his heart of blessing to otherwise cursed and cursing world!
Listen, this very day, and hear the voice of Jesus pronouncing his blessing upon you and your day!
Grace and peace,