Listen to the message
(To download: Right Click, choose “Save Target As…”)
Series: The Church and the World
Sun am 5th April 2015 – Justus Swart
Matt. 5:7-12, 38, 43-44; (Luke 23:46); John 18:1-11; Luke 22:47, 63-65;
Ps. 24:4-5; John 18:19-24; Eph. 2:14-17; 1 John 4:20-21; Acts 7:54-60;
(Rom. 10:17); (Matt. 7:3-5); (Matt. 6:21)
Jesus practiced all the principles that He taught, they were not separate from Him, but He embodied them fully. Because Jesus was able to do everything He taught others to do, the impact of His testimony was so significant that it changed the whole entire world.
Today we will carry on with the other four beatitudes and draw a parallel to Jesus’ arrest and questioning before Pontius Pilot. The last four focus more on persecution.
The fifth Beatitude: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy (Matt. 5:7). If you show mercy to others you yourself will then also receive mercy. Mercy is commonly understood as showing compassion or forgiveness to someone who is within your power to punish or to harm. It is giving up your power and your right to revenge and retaliation. Revenge can be rooted right deep down inside of us. In today’s world mercy is quite foreign. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is often the order of the day, and the saying was also around in the time of Jesus. Jesus takes away the rights of His chosen people to retaliate with violence; instead He arms them with something much more powerful. You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also (Matt 5:38-39). Those who would call themselves His disciples can no longer cling to their right and defend themselves. The disciple is now bound to Christ and Christ alone. So we have to draw from how Christ handled this exact situation. If somebody strikes you on the right cheek turn to Him also the left. Jesus says to us do not resist an evil person and encourages us to take part in willing endurance. Jesus did not for one second lose control in His arrest and in His death. Even up to the final moments Jesus said to God “Lord into your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). It was the willing surrender, the willing endurance of suffering. The only way then to overcome an evil person is to let itself run and run and run until it comes to a standstill because it cannot find any resistance. Resistance is what violence and anger is fuelled by, it is the food that it needs to survive. When we resist an evil person we are saying, “Bring it on.” Jesus is saying, “Do not resist”, let the evil person tire himself out because he cannot find that reaction that he is looking for. When evil cannot find its mark it can no longer breed further evil and is therefore left barren. There is no way for it to take root inside of you, no place for it to find that spark of anger or revenge inside of you. Take the path of willing endurance. When we look at the arrest of Jesus in the gospel of John, we see that Peter fanatically tried to resist the evil person by taking out his sword and cutting off the ear of one of the soldiers. Peter, as much as he is fanatically inclined to wanting to protect Jesus or to protect himself, he is stepping outside of Jesus and where Jesus is. We come to a point of doing the wrong thing. Peter resorts to violence as if he was in a holy war.
Luke was a physician and was particularly amazed by all the miracles that Jesus did, the healings of the body, so he made notes and reference to every healing that Jesus had done. When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him (Luke 22:49-51). In that story not only did Jesus hold Peter back but he also took a step further and healed the man who was there to arrest Him. Instead of retaliating Jesus not only resisted the violence but He goes further to show mercy and compassion. So many people had their ears cut off by fanatic Christians, people who are willing to defend the gospel with a sword or with their harsh words. They are no longer receptive to the gospel or to Christians; because they have been hurt somewhere down the line. Here Jesus teaches us to restore them, heal them; heal their ears and hearing because faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17). So blessed are the merciful for they too shall be shown mercy by God. You definitely want the mercy of God because we do not deserve the righteousness given to us, yet God chooses to bestow His own righteousness upon us. If you look at other people and you see sin in their life, first look at yourself take the log out of your own eye before you focus in on the splinter in your brother’s eye (Matt. 7:3-5). If anybody is in the wrong it is most likely us and our hearts. When you show mercy to others then you will also receive mercy; most likely not from people but from God.
The sixth Beatitude: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matt. 5:8). In the Hebrew, the term “heart” means the whole person, your mind, emotions and will. Therefore to be pure in heart means to have singleness of heart, mind and will; a complete and total devotion to God in all aspects of our lives. It is talking about the unseen, like when you are alone and no one else is around, there is only one thing that your heart longs after and that is Jesus. The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior (Ps. 24:4-5). Idols are something we have a picture of through the Old Testament but when we translate that into our modern day context we still have idols. The question we need to ask ourselves is if we desire to see Jesus more than anything else in this world. Social media, validation, popularity can all be idols. Riches and wealth are things that we strive after; success, progressing in our work environment; giving our all and wanting to be the best. These are things that creep into our hearts. What has the centre place in your heart? What are you longing to see in your life? When we pursue success or riches or approval or whatever, more than we seek after Jesus we turn those things into idols. They tend to take a higher place than Jesus in our lives and they start to eclipse Him and we can no longer see Him for who He really is. These things can become barriers where we can no longer come to Jesus with a pure heart; they come into our lives and they take root. Where your treasure is there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:21). Where your heart is, there will your treasure be! We are prone to offering God little portions of ourselves and in so doing trying to exchange it for free reign in other areas of our lives. He is looking to be Lord over your life completely! The Christian life is not about avoiding sin but about following after Jesus. The religious system tells us we must avoid sin, but Jesus said, “Follow Me” (Matt. 4:19).
When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus and take him for questioning, they had no idea what they were in for. When He said “I Am He”, they fell over backwards. During the questioning Jesus never lost His dignity (John 18:19-24). He never lost control in the midst of people with utter disrespect who were treating Him like a criminal. He had that purity of heart and had nothing to hide. Purity of heart will always stand for your defence against all things, no matter who tries to put you on trial. Jesus stood in perfect alignment with God the Father. When He stood before Pilate who examined Him yet Pilot found no basis to charge Him. When you are examined up close by the people around you, what do they see? Who are you? Where is your purity of heart? Is it that singleness of heart that follows after Jesus or are you trying to defend yourself and make some sort of a point? God promises that those who seek after Him in purity will see Him. Purity of heart draws us closer to God.
The seventh Beatitude: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matt. 5:9). One thing we are clear on is that peace-making and conflict resolution is not always the same thing. You can have peace without reconciliation. Calm waters do not mean that there are no strong currents underneath. We also know that the opposite is true that still waters run deep. So the true meaning of peace-making as talked about here is eliminating estrangement (Eph. 2:14-17). The idea of peace is incredibly attractive but sometimes we accept peace on the wrong terms. This has a very practical outworking in our community. Peace-making means making one out of two. If God makes peace by drawing us closer to Himself, then that means it should also be in our community and in our church. Peace-making means confronting the space between you and your neighbour. It means destroying any barriers that form a dividing wall between you and God, and the truth is that if you are far from your neighbour you are also far from God (1 John 4:20-21).
When you feel wronged or you feel abandoned or mistreated and you hold onto a grudge, you cannot draw closer to God. If there is distance between us and our brother or our neighbour, that very distance is between us and God. True peace making means giving up your right to anger and revenge and it empowers us to forgive and to have compassion on those who trespass against us. That is the message of our Gospel that Jesus came and He died for the very people who crucified Him. We were once far from God and yet He came and drew us closer to Himself. That is the nature of the Gospel. He came into our reality as a man, lived amongst us and died for us. If there is space between you and your neighbour, you need to bridge the gulf with forgiveness. That means you have to be a peacemaker wherever you go in every situation find yourself in. You are called to be the peacemaker. Peace-making is not necessarily a neat and tidy business but it lay holds of somebody and does not let them go. This community is one body so it is for all the churches in the area. To eliminate the estrangement between you and your neighbour is to draw closer to God. Take note of that if you are in that space, seek them out, lay hold of somebody and do not let them go.
The eighth Beatitude: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matt. 5:10-12).
Gospel to us means good news, but to many it means bad news. It comes as this difficult thing to hear because their whole life has been built around living for themselves. Here comes Christ and He says: “No, live for your neighbour”. In the story of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60) the people could not bear hearing about Jesus for even one more second. They put their hands over their ears and started screaming. The gospel was so offensive that it cost Stephen his life. We have “nominal Christianity” where you come to church when it is convenient for you. With no opposition whatsoever you will half-heartedly come and attend church. What happens when you are faced with real opposition? What happens to your faith when it is actually tested? Where do you go? Who do you go to?
Jesus could have walked away because of the persecution He took for us (Luke 22:63-65). Jesus endured the pain and the suffering so we do not have to endure it. He took upon Himself the sin of the world; the only man who had a pure and righteous heart took all of our sins on Himself. Have you ever been mocked or made fun of because of your faith? Have you ever been mistreated or misrepresented? Jesus said that we would go through these things but He also promised that He would go through it with us. Every time a person persecutes a Christian he then draws himself closer to that Christian. The word says we should love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-44). We do not have violent persecution but a lot of us have things come up that stop us from living our Christian life completely. Persecution takes a very different form in the modern world today. We have life that is so busy. Jesus wants us to draw closer to Him and He wants us to be His testimony. The story of Jesus must be evident in our lives because that is the Church that He wants.