Hearing Jesus Words

Bible Readings:

  • 1 Corinthians 1:26–31
  • Matthew 5:1–12

In 1 Corinthians1, the worldly human wisdom cherished by unbelievers opposes the wisdom of God revealed in the gospel. God’s wisdom is based on the gospel of Christ and leads to eternal life. The gospel is divinely powerful to convert the lost without depending on worldly wisdom.

The people of Corinth and many people seem to judge themselves and the world by the world’s standards rather than by God’s standards. For the people of Corinth and for us, today’s texts teach and show us God’s way of living into the fullness of who we are called to be as disciples of Christ. In Christ, we are strengthened to participate in God’s reign of justice and peace, because Christ crucified is God’s power and wisdom. 

In Matthew 5, when Jesus saw the crowds, he slipped away from them to the mountain. Jesus’ teaching is directed to the disciples, to the Twelve and the larger group of people who accompany Jesus. The truth is that Jesus meant the Beatitudes to be for everyone.

Matthew 5 is a collection of Jesus’ sayings in the Sermon on the Mount. It shows us God’s standards. Jesus uses the present tense in this series of sermon, representing urgency. He teaches us about who is blessed. Blessing is God’s gift, a sign of covenant relationship with God. Jesus teaches us who are the blessed ones through the Beatitudes and describes the way of life for those who commit themselves to follow.  

Jesus teaches that the blessed ones are those who are poor in Spirit, who are gentle, who show mercy, who hunger and thirst for God’s ways. Those who mourn will be comforted; those who make peace will be called God’s children. Those persecuted in the cause of righteousness will find themselves part of the kingdom of heaven. To be poor in spirit, peaceful, merciful, and meek will lead us everywhere grounded in the kingdom of God. 

The term “meek” or humble is much misunderstood. From verse 5, the “gentle” or meek are those who are powerful, but who have the maturity and grace to use their power for constructive rather than destructive purposes. Meekness is not weakness, but “strength under control.” 

There is a phrase, “the meekest horse wins the race.” because the meek horses are the ones who have most responded to the training, and all their inherent strength is used and brought under focused control. It is said that the meek horse fought at the forefront even in war because it was the strongest and did not lose its purpose until the very end. As in Numbers 12:3, Moses was referred to as “humbler than anyone else on the face of the earth” Likewise, Moses, who was expressed as the meekest man, played a role as a leader in carrying out God’s planned work. 

According to Charles James Cook, some principles for living into the spirit of the Beatitudes can be summarised as simplicity, hopefulness, and compassion. We are called to prepare our hearts to hear this with fresh ears. Simplicity has to do with hearing the words of Jesus for what they simply are. It has nothing to do with what we would prefer or change them to be.

Hearing Jesus’ words is the first principle for living into the spirit of the Beatitudes. The first stage to act the Beatitudes is to hear the words clearly, without prejudice, and to know that the words are spoken directly to us. May we be open to hearing Jesus’ words for what it is, rather than layering it with our own subjectivity and prejudices.

Jesus was turning the values of the world upside down through His Sermon on the Mount. Thus, we are able to approach the world with a spirit of hope, even when we face difficulties and sufferings. May we place our hope on Christ, who offered hope to the hopeless. When we are hopeful, we stand firm in the world with mercy, humility, peace, and love.

The next principle of Beatitude living is compassion. Compassion is beyond pity or sympathy. To have pity on people means that you feel sorry for them. Sympathy means that you understand what people are experiencing. Henri Nouwen said that compassion grows with the inner recognition that your neighbour shares your humanity with you. What do we share with our neighbour or church family? Does compassion grow in our lives? 

We are distinct, but we share that gift of being created in God’s image; thus, we belong to one another as family. Compassion requires not walking the same path with a companion but walking in his or her shoes. Responding to Jesus’ teaching, living into the spirit of the Beatitudes with simplicity, hopefulness, and compassion is something that we can all do in Christ.

Just as Jesus transcends all kinds of barriers, may we hear Jesus’ words and break through all walls in Christ. Across all barriers, we are one in Christ, destined for the same end, the kingdom of God in both earth and heaven. The Beatitudes are not entrance requirements for the kingdom but eschatological and spiritual blessings.

God cares about our attitudes and motives for behaving as we do. The theological heart of the Beatitudes is a call to be disciples who live out the virtues of the blessings. Jesus wants us to pursue of God’s righteousness grounded in God’s steadfast love, goodness, justice, and mercy. God first loved us, gave us the blessing of Jesus Christ, our salvation. May we remember God’s blessings and Jesus’ words and live out the gospel.

Although the later parts of the Sermon seem to be full of ethical imperatives, the eight Beatitudes are Jesus’ blessings rather than ethical imperative. Jesus is not directly asking the crowd to become poor in spirit, or mourners, or persecuted for righteousness; instead, he offers consolation to those who find themselves poor and in mourning and persecuted. Jesus’ promised blessings comfort the oppressed, broken-hearted, and exiled people and give them strength. God’s promises about God’s reign will be fulfilled. Here we get to hear what Jesus was saying to disciples and to us.

What challenges do we find in trying to live according to Jesus’ saying? It is sometimes hard for us to live out the gospel, but we do receive more courage than fear when we hear Jesus’ living words. In accordance with His words, we are blessed people in this life whenever we demonstrate humility, bring a peaceful presence, open our heart to others, and show mercy on those who cry for it. It is through God’s grace that we experience great joy and the comfort of love he offers. May we ask for God’s grace in meeting the high standards of discipleship.

Jesus gives us his comfort, strength, and words. God invites us to hear Jesus’ words and the fields of ministries. Responding to Jesus’ words, may we live a life for justice for the oppressed and marginalized, extend mercy to the outcast, and live the values outlined in the beatitudes. May we adjust our standards and values to match God’s and trust God’s power to convert the lost.

We need to remember that blessings from God are freely given to us. May we experience God’s transforming love for all of us and Jesus’ blessings for us. It is important that we are poor in spirit, we mourn, we are meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, we are merciful, pure in heart, we are peacemakers, then we will be blessed. To be blessed is not simply to be happy, but to know that one is included in the kingdom of God. I hope that all of us will be blessed believers of Christ, rejoice in the Lord always and forever.

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)