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Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
These men and women, children walking beside on their little legs, sometimes struggling to keep up with the rest of the crowd, have been following Jesus for a good distance. Their feet ache and they need a rest. They have been following after Jesus, having seen and heard of the teaching and proclamation of the kingdom, his healing of various diseases and pains, and the casting out of demons from those who were suffering under the thumb of evil forces. They were bringing to Jesus people without use of their legs, or who were epileptic, or had sundry other health problems. And Jesus healed them. Some of those people are still in this crowd following Jesus around. And as happy as they are to have been set free from the painful bondage they had been kept in, they are getting worn from this journey.
Jesus turns his eyes toward them, and looks upon these people. Sitting on the mountain above them, his closest disciples come to him in a place where he can be clearly seen and heard by those worn and weary followers now taking their places on the ground. Their moment to stretch out and rest has come. As they begin their rest Jesus begins speaking down the mountain to them, adding something to their respite they may not have known they were yet seeking:
“Blessed is the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
So on and so forth Jesus continues through his list of what life in God’s kingdom looks like now for these people who have seen and heard the great and glorious power of God in Jesus. The Lord God speaks to them with promises that may only be partially experienced in the dangerous and difficult place and time in which these sojourners are, but these are yet ultimate promises of what the final reality shall be for those who have followed after Jesus. And it is within the context of their being together as his disciples that these things can and are realized now. These promises might have fallen upon their ears strangely, though with a heartfully thankful welcome. For those who are meek and mild, those who mourn, those who are persecuted and reviled are not typically going to be those whom the world would describe as blessed or happy. These are the people that oppressors, tyrants, and legalists tend to steamroll right over in their quest for ever increasing glory and honor, according to their own standards. For poor souls like these followers of Jesus, they aren’t winners but losers; their so-called kingdom cannot stop the present political and social kingdom from busting them down and casting them aside like rubbish ripe for the bin. They are weak, and strongmen despise weakness.
Yet Jesus keeps on saying “shall.” These people shall inherit, they shall be satisfied, they shall be called sons of God and see God. These are the people who will reap the ultimate reward when God’s kingdom, the kingdom Jesus has begun telling them about with its attached true, pure, and radiant happiness, comes in its fullness. Then the kingdoms of men who have subjugated the Lord’s children, those who have sat at his feet to listen to the soft words of beautiful and bright promises, will be made nothing.
The pure in heart, the peacemaker, the merciful, those who had been treated quite badly and cast aside will now be the norm in Christ’s kingdom. It will gleam with the bright light of holiness, blinding only the eyes of the evil that they come to no more. And all of this will be so because of the one who exemplified all these qualities of God’s kingdom, Jesus the Christ. Through his death, although he was the Son of God who was hated and despised by all for living a life of holiness in the way he has described, and by his glorious and vindicating resurrection three days later, Jesus inaugurates this coming kingdom in his people, the Church. The present order of things, where the supposedly powerful, with all their self-proclaimed and unjustly attributed glory, fight, divide, and destroy for their vision of how things should be will soon dissolve because of their inherent weakness, as if they are nothing but a rope of sand. Those who have been called to sit at the Lord’s feet and who hear the voice of the Lord declaring the “shall’s” will move from last to first.
This morning we have heard the words of Jesus read aloud in this gathered assembly. Today we have sat before him resting our sore feet, hearing our Lord speak to us this vision of what the kingdom of God looks like in its fullness. And we rejoice, knowing that as we continue to live together in community as his body, as we live and move and breathe as his body here on earth, empowered by him to live according to his word by the presence of the Holy Spirit. And in the face of sin, which so easily entangles, and its author who would seek to devour us, Christ has us take our rest in him in his real presence. It is only with him in the Church that we can live truly counter-culturally.
And in the Church may it ever be our prayer that we might live the way Jesus has described, asking the Lord to keep us from all evil, to keep our life, to guard our going out and our coming in from this time forth forevermore. May we cling to the hope of Christ that someday, in full, we shall live in such a completed and happy kingdom with all those who would follow after Jesus our Lord.
In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.