Jesus’ Upside-Down Teaching - Matt. 5:1-12


In this very first setting of teaching from the Lord in the New Testament, immediately we are shaken by what He says.  The list of 9 Blessings is completely foreign to our world’s, and our own, thinking.  It turns what we would commonly think completely on it’s head, completely upside-down.  Each one is either NOT a positive in our estimation or even the exact opposite what we would think is good.  If you listed the top blessings in your life right now, I would imagine none of these subjects would appear.  They don’t for me either, … and we even know the truth of the text!

Let’s look at these …

“Blessed are the poor in spirit” – Blessed are those who are having a tough go of it.  This is the exact opposite of, not only what we want, but what we say about God.  So, often I have heard people say, “I know God wants me to be happy.”  Well, in Jesus first words of teaching in the New Testament, He declares that it’s not so important to Him.  The longer-range truth is, whether this day is hard or easy, God’s child has the kingdom of heaven as their own and for it’s blessings to enjoy forever.

“Blessed are those who mourn” – Again with the anti-happy rhetoric.  Maybe the Benedictine Monks had it right after all.  We would not put this on any list of blessings we ever made ourselves.  Mourning is so challenging, but to everything there is a season.  Glee ends and must be recreated.  Mourning does not really end here, but neither does the comfort once we sense it’s presence.  Again, as above, to the child of God, we look forward to all our tears being wiped away in the glory of His presence.

“Blessed are the gentle” – This word could be translated, “gentle, humble, or meek.”  They’re all a fitting translation and they’re all awful!  If you want to get ahead in life, the attitude you need to have is _________ .  Whatever someone puts in the blank is not gentle, humble or meek.   However, as we look at things through Jesus’ perspective, He resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.  He gave victory to Israel over Jericho, David over Goliath, and offers victory over the grave.   We do not need to be the big man that conquers.  We can with confidence submit in surrender to the Almighty God, our Father.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” -  This one captures multiple levels.  Many at the time and in our world had/have physical hunger, and Jesus is teaching that these basic needs are not what bring satisfaction.  However, to step it up, others do have greater than “physical hunger” pursuits, but have nothing to do with righteousness.  They (we) pursue selfish desires, personal ambitions, prideful accolades which will not really bring satisfaction on their own either.  Just as hunger brings some satisfaction when fed, these other pursuits bring short-term confirmation in our life as well.  However, when we know that righteousness is at the core of what is accomplished, the satisfaction, even here, is amplified, because we are truly free to be fulfilled in it.  

“Blessed are the merciful” – This upside-down truth may not be a great strategy in competition or for a nation in warfare, but is the correct, God-honoring thought in our personal life.  When we have the opportunity to to help someone who is no real help to us OR when we can crush someone who has hurt us, what do we do?  I would say that in our current culture nothing displays  the light of Christ as clearly as mercy.  It is rare.  It is evident when practiced.  It is also a reflection of what has been given TO us already.

“Blessed are the pure in heart” – This is a slap in the face to the religious elite of His day that desired to show to everyone just how really, really good they were.   Instead, Jesus is emphasizing a true purity that you know is true at the core of you and that is not focused on others noticing.  Now, none of us actually have inner purity and when we seek it, we realize our frailty, but in Christ it is given freely to us, putting us in a right and acceptable place to “see God” and enjoy an eternal relationship with Him.

“Blessed are the VICTORS! … sorry, I got caught up in my own upside-down thinking for a second.   “Blessed are the peacemakers” – How wimpy does THAT sound?  However, if you’ve ever been called on to show great restraint, help with calming a heated situation, or pass on personal vengeance for a greater good; then you understand the kind of steeled strength it requires.  The “sons of God” title given to these are both because they example God’s redeemer-like qualities, but also due to the seemingly super-human accomplishment peacemaking work is in our broken world.

These last 2 certainly go together … “Blessed are those who have been persecuted” either for righteousness or for something directly related to the Lord.  When we feel like throwing our own not-so-little pity party for ourselves because we have done well and have received persecution.  Instead we can actually turn it upside-down and realize we are blessed, evidencing His kingdom, and go on our way “rejoicing that [we] had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41)

Well, in all of these, it is unmistakeable that Jesus’ teaching was going to be a drastic change from what they had heard and what they thought was productive.  It is still the same.  May we follow His right teaching and not our world’s upside-down ways.

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