Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Beatitutes are Good News!

The Beatitutes (Matthew 5:1-11) have never been a favourite passage of mine. They have always seemed to me to have the flavour of 'do this, and this, and this, ...etc and you will be blessed', and as a card-carrying Protestant I find that hard to like. Jeff Meyer's recent post entitled The Gospel in the Gospels made me think about them all over again. I am not sure about much of what he has to say, although it is very thought-provoking, but he pointed out that the few verses before the Sermon on the Mount should control much of our understanding of what Matthew was doing. 4:23 reads:

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

That could be described as Matthew's summation of Jesus' ministry, and when chapters 5-7 are the Sermon on the Mount and 8-9 are various healing miracles, it suggests 5-9 is an expansion of that one verse. That does suggest to me that the Gospel is proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount (even if not all of it). And I now agree with Jeff Meyers that:

the Good News of the Kingdom is that those who teach and live according God's instruction as laid out in the Law and Prophets and embodied in Jesus' life will be called great.

That the Beatitutes are a message of Good News to the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek etc seems obvious. How I for all this time read them as a How-to-be-holy-and-so-blessed guide, when they are a proclamation of something God is going to do for his faithful people, is beyond me.

Jeff Meyers deserves to be heard again:

Okay. So how is THIS good news?

Whether anyone in this life recognizes it or not, those who seek to be scrupulous about their conformity to God's instruction are blessed by God.

This is NOT to say that they merit God's favor or that they earn their position of greatness by means of brownie points with God. Rather, remember, Jesus is speaking to his disciples, to the Israel of God who have been chosen by God, graciously redeemed by God, favored by God's unmerited love and grace, and made part of his kingdom.

This train of thought lead me to a few other passages which are along the same theme:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;

(Isaiah 61:1-2)

And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.

(Luke 1:46-53)

I still think out loud...

PS. I think Jeff Meyers is saying something quite different to me, so please read his own stuff before catagorising him (even then you may struggle).


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