Passage: Matthew 5:1–5:12
Pastor Edwin Mendivelso
Trinity Lutheran Church
W. Hempstead, NY
Sermon based on the Gospel for All Saints Sunday, Matthew 5:1-12
Last Monday was All saint’s day. We remembered those who have gone on before us to be with Christ, who were made holy by the Holy Spirit (as a Divine gift, not a human achievement). He made them holy through the waters of Baptism and they along with us, are waiting for the resurrection.
Then the next day were the elections. Most of the politician’s promises were: “I am what you are looking for.” Do you think at this time we can find a politician who could be just, merciful, clean of heart, and a peace maker as today’s Gospel says?
Well. We certainly trust that God will use some of them through His Left Hand to sustain this nation. And on our part, we should be in a continuous time of repentance so that we can be obedient and apply what the Gospel says in Mark 12:17, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Our prayer then is that our nation will be in better hands and some of the politicians will do what is needed to be done.
When you think about the beatitudes, are they not attitudes that you are to assume or supposed to do? Do they apply to you as well as a politician? Actually thinking that way is step B. Step A is to recognize that the beatitudes for the most part describe Jesus — especially the Crucified Christ. He is poor in spirit. He mourns. He is meek. He hungers and thirsts for righteousness. He is merciful. He is pure in heart. He is a peace maker. He is persecuted. He is reviled. He is the fulfillment of the beatitudes.
Seven hundred years before Christ a promise of the Messiah was written in Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.”
But also in many Psalms we find the beatitudes or divine blessings which God bestows upon His people. Here are a few examples: Psalm 32:1-2 “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.” Or, Psalm 128:1 “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.”
The beatitudes are perfectly fulfilled in Christ. And they can be fulfilled in us as the Holy Spirit works in us, through our Baptism. We are told that God sees us in perfect righteousness because of His Son in us. It says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
The Sermon on the Mount, was delivered to the first disciples so that the Great Commission could be accomplished. But it is also delivered to all his followers including us, today's church.
“Blessed be the poor in spirit.” The word “poor” not only refers to literal poverty, but as Luther explained, like the man born blind, we are all beggars in need of Christ to open our eyes. We are beggars needing to ask for help or guidance. To Jesus such beggars are the poor in spirit.
“For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of heaven is the deeds of God, performed by us in and through Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.
The kingdom of heaven includes the perfect life that Jesus lived in our place. It includes His ministry of preaching and healing. It includes His passive obedience in suffering and death on the cross. It includes the promise of eternal life that comes through His resurrection. It includes His presence with us now in Word and Sacrament. It includes His final coming on the Last Day to raise our bodies and take us, body and soul into His eternal presence.
“Blessed are those who mourn.” Despite our tears, we trust in God. Therefore, blessed are the people who don't resign themselves to the present condition of the world. The tension created by our mourning here, and the hope, and comfort promised in the fulfillment of God’s kingdom is our strength.
“Blessed are the meek.” Meekness is being completely dependent upon God. It is being sensitive to the will of God as Jesus was — knowing that God is our source of strength and confidence rather than human ability.
Blessed are those who are aware of their identity in Jesus Christ and have renounced the methods of this world’s power. They will Inherit the Promised Land in the heavenly places. It says in Psalm 37: 10-11, “A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land”
“Blessed are those who are hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Once they have tasted the righteousness of Christ, they want as much as they can get. They always hunger and thirst for more of the righteousness that is Jesus. We pray that this will be us. As it says in Psalm 34 : 8,9 “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.” Jesus promised to satisfy our desire for righteousness now and into eternity.
“Blessed are those who had Mercy.” Those whose life is characterized by faithfulness, by mercy, by love for others will receive mercy from God in the last judgment. This is similar to the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. This mercy is not something that we do in ourselves, but something that Christ works in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Blessed are those who had purity of heart.” Purity of heart is a single-minded devotion to God. The opposite of purity of heart is a divided heart. Attempting to serve two masters is a place where doubt is born.
It says in Psalm 24:3-4, “3. . . Who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by a false god.” It requires that we be devoted to God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul and with all our strength.
“Blessed are the Peace makers” does not mean a passive attitude. Those who have God’s peace readily share it with others — in church, at work and with family and friends. They also proclaim the message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” ( Matthew 4:17 )
Being called “sons of God” is not a matter of individualistic identity. Rather it is knowing that you belong to the true people of God, and will enter into His inheritance as His followers.
“Blessed are those who are unjustly persecuted because of righteousness” for their commitment to Jesus. “Righteousness” is not simply our good deeds. For our good deeds cannot save us. Instead, this righteousness is the righteousness of Christ that He has earned for us with His perfect life and innocent suffering and death. The world hates Jesus and so it hates those who have His righteousness. Therefore, the world persecutes believers. When this happens in life, Jesus promises us His blessings. While those who oppress God's people may be fortunate for a moment, they who trust the Lord will be fortunate forever.
The blessings Jesus pronounced on His disciples was so that they could bless others with what they had received. Jesus gives his followers spiritual eyes to see their path through Him alone.
It is not our job to earn the blessings of the beatitudes. Instead, Jesus has taken it on Himself to give us these blessings in His love. In order to give us His gifts, He endured our punishment and carried our shame. Therefore, these blessings come to us freely because of God's grace, not because of anything we do.
This also means that being a disciple is to be a continuous learner. Being a disciple demands that our first act of discipleship is to recognize Jesus as our Savior.
We can continue fishing for people, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. This could come at great cost to ourselves, fighting oppressive powers in Jesus' powerful name.
When we see people receiving the word of God, and finding healing and freedom in Jesus' name we can announce, "the kingdom of God has drawn near." Amen.