Updated: Aug 1, 2022
I grew up, not always having what the other kids did financially, we moved homes a lot, and I was often not in the “cool crowd’, oftentimes finding myself excluded. I would often look on from the outside, at what looked like the good life - Wealth and the joy and the ease that people seemed to have, big houses, fancy cars, influence, “successful” people, popular people. Maybe one day I’ll have that, maybe one day I’ll be accepted like that, celebrated like that…live like that… Maybe one day…I had this picture of what the good life and happiness looked like from some of those around me. Were they happy in their lives..? Surely! I mean - how could they not be?
Today I want to talk about the good life! #blessed! Who is truly blessed in this world..? What does Jesus think?
The Bible begins in the book of Genesis and starts in the beautiful, perfect garden of Eden on a Mountain. If we fast forward to the end of the Bible in the book of Revelations, we see in the very last chapter - a picture of the perfect garden city on a Mountain with the Tree of Life that all will be able to eat from again. We see the narrative arc - starts good and ends good but something happens in the middle that affects and changes the trajectory of our lives…
That something is Jesus. In his TOV, goodness - God sends his son Jesus to earth, to teach us about his Kingdom with the view to bringing God’s Kingdom and reign back to earth, restoring creation to as it should be! We have spoken of God being TOV, meaning good but more than good. And maybe you, like me, have been sitting here thinking, “Okay, so where do we see this goodness in our lives.? What is the good life? What does it look like? Who is truly blessed? I want in…”
What does the world tell us? You're "Facebook" blessed if you are happy! All the good things we get to enjoy and experience! What the world sets out as the good life: Wealth, the job title, the social status, fancy car, splendid house, maybe an island, boats, power, influence, popularity, followers on Insta or Facebook, you be you, living my best life, hashtag blessed, hashtag winning, life goals, business goals, perfect marriage, perfect children - I don't know what it was/is for you or what pictures come to mind…I wonder what picture came to Jesus’ mind?
We will start with Jesus’ famous Beatitudes! The beatitudes are often recognised for their parallels with Moses and the 10 commandments, however, instead of fire and smoke on the mountain, this time, God sends his son in flesh. Who experienced all we experience. Jesus comes as the rescuer, like Moses, leading the rescue mission. Jesus would have been seen as a prophet or son of God to the Jews and perhaps a wise sage to others, inviting people into ways in this world that promise the truly good life…In this teaching, he shows us what it means to be blessed in the Kingdom of God.
Into the beatitudes…
From Matthew 5v1
1Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Okay, a very different #blessed list to what we are used to in our world. What is going on here?
Let's summarise what they are not:
First, saved by grace through faith, not by our works or by our attitude. They are not a list of virtues or things to do or become in order to earn blessing.
It is not a list of commands…Not something you should go and do! Praying to be poor or sad? Surely this doesn’t make sense…I don’t think Jesus commands this. It is a blessing. The aim is not to go out and do…
It is not a list of timeless truths…Do the meek always inherit the earth? No. Sometimes, but rarely…It's often the idiots who run the world. Any Trump fans in the house? Those who run countries are normally the rich, powerful, well educated, often those who lie, cheat, and steal to get ahead. Do mourners always receive comfort? No! If you read it as a list of timeless truths, it doesn’t work..
So what exactly they are?
First - It is the Gospel. If you define Gospel as Jesus is King and his Kingdom is coming. You get it at the very beginning of his sermon on the mount. His Kingdom is coming and it is coming for the least likely of people - the down and outs, those living in sin, those whose life is a mess, those, who by worldly standard would be considered un-blessable. Not only for those who have it all together - the wealthy, powerful, influential- it's also for those who don’t have it all together. Those people are blessed! All those people are blessed and they didn’t do anything but show up!
If you turn it into virtues or a list - it becomes the exact opposite of justification by grace through faith. It becomes a twisted way of earning blessing not through good works, but by being these things. The gospel, the good news Jesus comes to share is,
“Hey you, your life is kind of a mess - come into the Kingdom, blessed are you..”
“Hey you who is sad…Come in, you’re welcome here.”
“Hey you who is mourning the status of your marriage..You are blessed and you are welcome here.
"Hey you who are grappling with addiction - come in, you are welcome here…”
Blessing first, and out of that blessing he preaches the rest of his sermon on the mount…
So first, the beatitudes are the gospel.
Second - In the beatitudes Jesus radically redefines who is blessed. His list is countercultural in its time. It went against populist thinking. Upside down as we say. And I think the same holds true today. It's the last thing they would expect to hear….I think even if you are familiar with the teachings of Jesus you could be sitting here thinking, hey, I'm not so sure about this bit.
In borrowing a structure from JMC, you could paraphrase Jesus’ list in todays language something like this..
⭐ Blessed are the the down and out, the unemployed, the over worked, those without an education, those without insurance or medical aid, or those who are spiritually simple and have very little to offer because they are in the Kingdom of God.
⭐ Blessed are the sad, the depressed, the anxious, those grieving the death of a loved one, the failure of a marriage or another miscarriage - because one day God himself will comfort their pain.
⭐ Blessed are the lonely, the badly dressed, the uncool, the socially awkward - because one day they will be free from what others think of them and they will reign as queens and kings of his Kingdom.
⭐ Blessed are the messed up, those who just cant get it right, those in abusive relationships, those in troubled homes, those grappling addicted - because one day they will be so filled with the freedom and goodness of God.
⭐ Blessed is the humble one, the one who doesn’t pay back violence with violence or seek revenge, one day they will receive that mercy back tenfold..
⭐ Blessed are the Christians in a culture that can at times make fun of them or look down on them as stupid and behind the times - they get to share in the Kingdom of God…
The list goes on…Jesus is redefining who is blessed and it is possibly more radical now than it was then!
What does the world say about happiness in this life, who is blessed.?
Our world is so often built around the pursuit of happiness! We have redefined happiness to what we have and what we feel. I think we can grow up with ideas for what happiness should look like and then go and chase after it and life happens and some of your dreams maybe don’t come true,
Here, in complete contrast Jesus is saying whenit'saltogethers not altogether, let’s celebrate! When the world says you are un-blessable, Jesus says, “Congratulations, you made the list of blessings!”
John 16:33 - Jesus “ I have told you these things so that you will have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart (be encouraged) for I have overcome the world”.
We live in a culture that says you are not blessed. I want you to hear that you are! Regardless of what your condition or situation is - I want you to hear, that you are blessed!
In the beatitudes, I believe Jesus is painting a picture of what his Kingdom looks like, a world put right. A great reset! Kingdom and earth as he originally intended. I believe he says, My blessing, my TOV, my goodness is for everyone! All are welcome here, regardless of your condition or situation, and you don’t have to do anything, there are no conditions - just receive it!
Our King Jesus says everything is going to be okay. Let me show you…Take a deep breathe. I know it doesn’t currently look like you thought it would. It's okay. Everything is going to be okay…Blessed are you!