Thursday, April 7, 2016

God Wants You to be Blessed

There are some things God wants us to hear. Jesus, we Christians believe, is God in the flesh. While he was living on this planet, he traveled around claiming to be God and doing miracles proving it. But that's not all he did. He taught. And like speakers, preachers, and politicians today, Jesus had a "stump" sermon he repeated, tailoring it to the occasion and makeup of the crowd. 

In Matthew a version of it is called the Sermon on the Mount, in Luke another is commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Plain. Many believe these are two different reports of the same sermon given at the same time. After obsessing over this issue for many months, I disagree (and I'm not alone). I believe strongly that these are two similar sermons given on two different occasions. They may start and finish alike, but the setting, audience, and content are quite different.

Yes, this matters! Luke gives us a setting (Luke 6:17): 
And he came down with them (the newly named Apostles) and stood on a level place, (on a plain, a flat area) with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon,  
This seems much different than what Matthew 5 describes: 

1Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2And he opened his mouth and taught… 

There are already significant differences. Remember, Luke almost certainly had access to Matthew's Gospel, which suggests that he deliberately identified this sermon as different. In Matthew Jesus escapes the crowd to teach the disciples. Here, Jesus comes down to a huge and diverse crowd to teach. Already by simple comparison, the burden of proof lies with those who say this sermon in Luke 6 and the one in Matthew 5-7 are the same. And what's more, in my opinion there’s just too much different about the content. And this matters regarding how we interpret both of them! If you want to know much more about this read this excellent paper on the subject

Now, let's get back to Jesus in Luke 6. This huge crowd was there of Jews and Gentiles from all over Palestine:
 18who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all. 
So they came for 3 essential reasons: Intellectual-to hear him teach, physical-to be healed of diseases, and spiritual- to be freed from demonic oppression. Note: this is what the OT said the Messiah would do, even though that was different than what they wanted. By the way, shouldn’t we (Christ's followers) be about these things too? But I digress.
20And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:“Blessed… "
Let’s stop. What follows are Jesus’ instructions on how to be blessed.

What does it mean to be blessed? We see the word all the time. Tattoos, Facebook quotes, tweets (#blessed is everywhere). We all want to be blessed. What does that mean to you? More money? Better looks? Attractive date? Having fun? More stuff?

Being blessed isn’t just an obsession of our day. People desired to be blessed in Jesus’ time, too. 

The Greek word translated "blessed" is makarios. It means happy, fortunate, blissful, contented. Homer used it to describe a wealthy man. Plato used it for one who is successful in life. Homer and Hesiod used the word to speak of the Greek gods who were unaffected by the poverty, disease, weakness, misfortune, and death that men must experience. 

So "blessed" is complete happiness and inward contentedness unaffected by circumstances. 

The Bible speaks of blessedness as an attribute of God. It’s the happiness and joy God has in himself:

1Timothy 6:15-16 “[God] who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light…” 

Blessedness is what God enjoys, and that’s what he wants for you. So Jesus, in this repeated sermon, communicates it. And although the people came for different reasons to see this guy who claimed to be God’s Messiah, they all wanted to find blessing

Don’t you want it? 

This past Sunday, we began five weeks on HOW TO BE BLESSED according to JESUS. 
20“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 
21“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. 
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
22“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
In that way, Jesus gave descriptions of blessedness. Not quite what you thought, huh? But just so that we wouldn't miss it, he repeated them another way by contrast, using an opposite word: "woe" (ouai) which means miserable or pitied. In the Old Testament, “woe” is a warning of inconsolable misery to come to those who continue to rebel against God.
24“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 
25“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. 
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
26“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. 
That’s essentially what we’ll unpack for five weeks. 

As you can already see, this is radically different than how our world says one can find happiness, contentment, and blessing! But according to Jesus who wanted us to know, this is how you do. I have found that he is exactly right. 

Here's the challenge: Think deeply about each of these "blessed" and "woe" statements. For example, 
What does it really mean when Jesus says you are blessed if you are poor and miserable if you are rich?

Can I give you a hint?

These statements are probably not metaphors. 

Come each Sunday in April and find out how you can be blessed!

(You can actually hear the first message, "Blessed Are You Poor" here, or read a blog post on it here.)

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