Listen to the message
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Series: The Church and the World
Sun am 22nd March 2015 – Justus Swart
1 Cor. 1:27-28; Matt. 5:1-11; Mark 14:32-42; Mark 14:35; Ps. 34:18; John 3:16;
Luke 22:43-44; Ps. 37:11; (Matt. 26:38)
Jesus literally changed the face of the whole earth with only twelve men. Jesus used these simple, ordinary men, and they were martyred and put to death for it. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are (1 Cor. 1:27-28). It is backward to what we want to hear but that is God’s way. Never dismiss yourself for if God can use Peter, He can use you. 32% of the world population is Christian; which means 2.2 billion people confess the name of Jesus Christ because of the twelve disciples. It was the testimony of Jesus that changed the world. He was grace incarnate and love personified. That was the message the disciples carried, about the Man who was God who lived among us.
I will overlay two sections of Scripture this morning. We are going to look at the Beatitudes parallel to the events leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. We want to see what the correlation is between those. Therein lies the key to discovering the true power of the testimony of Jesus. The Church carries the testimony of Jesus. We are going to discover something about Jesus that is incredibly unique and significant to the Christian gospel; how God used the foolish things of this world to shame the wise.
One thing you will notice about the Beatitudes also known as the manifesto of the kingdom, they all start with the words: “Blessed are”. What we find at the end of these sentences hardly looks like what most contemporary Christians would consider as a blessing. We have attached the wrong meaning to the word “blessing”. The word “blessing” in the original Greek simply means “happiness” but happiness in God. What we have understood about blessings today is often limited to the provisional aspect of God. The Beatitudes do not take that approach. Blessed are you when you have this condition of heart. To be blessed is not only when you receive, but a way you look at the world. In Matthew 5, blessedness and happiness are in no way linked to receiving favourable conditions but in fact more connected to the heart condition we have in situations that are actively against us. When everything goes wrong, who are you? Are you blessed? What does that mean to you and to your non-Christian neighbour? It is a statement your heart is making throughout every situation you are going through. Let us look at a parallel Scripture. They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Mark 14:32-42).
The first Beatitude: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus starts to paint the picture of those who will inherit the kingdom of God, He starts off with an image of the lowest in society; the poor. They have no rights, no possessions, no wealth, no status, they have nothing; yet Jesus said those were the people who would inherit His kingdom. It is not the proud or the powerful who will inherit the kingdom but only those who are aware of how dependent they are upon God. The first beatitude signals the first true characteristic of anyone seeking the kingdom of God and that is humility. When we are talking about being poor of spirit we are not necessarily talking about our wealth or our possessions but in fact our disconnection from our own wealth. The term for it is ‘being dispossessed’ which means your wealth does not own you. If you lose it today, tomorrow you are still the same person. You are who you are before God. Only those who have emptied themselves can be filled with the God of heaven and earth. That is poorness of spirit. How did Jesus do that in the garden of Gethsemane? “Abba, Father,” he said, “Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:35). Poorness of spirit is giving up everything. So often we talk about Jesus’ miraculous healings and His astute conversations with the Pharisees, but we also see Jesus coming before God pleading, falling to the ground. He is asking God if there is any way that He will not have to go through what He has to go through: the unbearable suffering, the beating, the pain, the embarrassment and eventual death. Even with all these things in view He lowers Himself, the King of the universe: “Not what I will but what You will.” The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18). The Church is not defeated when she is broken. She is in fact closer to God than she has ever been. Why are we afraid to be broken? It is difficult for us, because we like to have this image of being a go-getter, being in charge and in control. Being part of a church is not being part of a social group of people who have it all together; it is a community of people completely reliant on God. When things do not go our way we do not back out; we do not give up for God is closest to us when we feel that we have lost everything. It is complete submission to the will of God over our lives. Our victory is not a forceful overpowering of our circumstances, it is knowledge in humility. We bring the kingdom of God to earth in the most powerful way. We find our strength in humility.
The second Beatitude: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. What a strange statement. It is actually saying, happy are those who are sad. The actual translation is “Oh the happiness of sadness”. Quite simply it means that the Church bears the sorrow on behalf of the world. We are a community of people bearing the weight of the world for what it does not yet know. We mourn for a world that does not know its Creator. We should be careful of all ideologies that tell us to move quickly through things that do not bring us happiness. The end goal of all things is not just to be a happy person. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Not willing to walk away from His creation, God sent His Son to bear the sorrow of the world and now through the cross we share the responsibility of bearing that sorrow. In the garden of Gethsemane we see Jesus carrying a very heavy burden. Jesus was deeply distressed and troubled. His soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Matt. 26:38). An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:43-44). Even when an angel comes from heaven to give you strength it does not take away your anguish. Being in anguish is not a wrong place. It was Christ bearing the sorrow for the whole world on His shoulders. Too often we pray for God to relieve us of our suffering instead of the strength to endure. Jesus was sweating blood not because of fear but because He stood alone in bearing the sorrow of the world. His disciples were sleeping instead of standing beside Him praying. Let us not be a sleeping church. There is a wonderful promise; we are not left with the emptiness of sorrow and grief, but are promised to be comforted by the Almighty God but the anguish does not go away. He then prayed even more.
The third Beatitude: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Meekness is not weakness, nor being a pushover or being flimsy. It is a complete surrender to the flow of God in our lives. It is to have a composed spirit in difficult times because you know that you are located within the will of God. This is by no means an easy task. No one should ever pretend that it is. We do not lie about our circumstances but we take faith in the proclamation that Jesus is on the throne. Those who try to possess the earth through violence will lose it. The disenfranchised, the downtrodden and broken have been given a plot on the earth, a place to call their own. That place is called the Church. God is not looking for a ruthless victor but for a Church dedicated to pray. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity (Ps.37:11).
The fourth Beatitude: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. This confronts us with the scary reality that pursuing righteousness does not always lead you down the path of least resistance. To have a genuine hunger and thirst for righteousness means to follow God wherever He may lead you. We forsake all things for the sake of His righteousness. In Gethsemane Jesus says, “Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go!” (Mark 14:41-42). He was not running away from anything but going straight for where God was going to be glorified. Boldly we can walk into all situations and know if we hunger and thirst for righteousness we will be filled. If this is the testimony of the Church, the world will not be able to resist peering into our community. They will not be able to stop themselves from listening when we speak because this is the reason why we are still talking about a Man who was born in a stable more than 2000 years ago. There was no difference between what He said and who He was.