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Deacon’s Journal

The Beatitudes: The DNA of Discipleship

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

--Jesus, Matthew 5:7-8

Father, by your Holy Spirit, grant us grace to

“hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the words of Jesus.

In his New Testament series John Stott writes: “….the essential theme of the whole Bible from beginning to end is that God’s historical purpose is to call out a people for himself; that this people is a ‘holy’ people, set apart from the world to belong to him and to obey him; and that its vocation is to be true to its identity, that is, to be ‘holy’ or ‘different’ in all its outlook and behavior.”

The Beatitudes describe what human life and human community look like when we set ourselves apart for God. Jesus is describing what ‘holy’ looks like and acts like. Looking at the first part of this sermon, the eight beatitudes, define the principal qualities of Christian character and conduct. In the entire Sermon on the Mount we see the distinctive qualities of Christian character, influence, righteousness, piety, ambition, relationships, and commitment.

These are tall orders coming from Jesus. Chapters 5 – 7 in Matthew delineate what a person and culture coming under God’s rule is. During Jesus’s time, and perhaps our own time, these attributes were part of the counterculture Jesus was bringing into the world.

Thus far in the Lenten sermon series we have examined what it means to be poor in spirit, mournful, meek, and hungry/thirsty for righteousness. These first four beatitudes address our attitude towards God. Now we begin looking at the last for which addresses our attitude to our fellow human beings. On Sunday we will examine what it means to be merciful and pure in heart.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Our world is full of people in pain, suffering misery and in distress. Jesus doesn’t specify the categories of people he has in mind to whom his disciples are to show mercy. Our God shows mercy to His people continuously. His people must show mercy to their fellow human beings. Mercy is compassion for any person who is in need. It is the meek who are also merciful. To be meek one must acknowledge to others that we are sinners; to be merciful is to have compassion on others for they are sinners too.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Jesus emphasizes heart righteousness rather than rule righteousness, the inward and moral status of the disciples. A popular topic of contention with the Pharisees. Purity in heart points to the quality of our relationships. Sincerity is one of the core values in this type purity. In relationships with both God and humans those who are pure in heart are free from falsehood. Sincerity is found in their lives, both private and public. The hearts of these who are pure are transparent before God and neighbors. These hearts are pure in their thoughts and motives are without hypocrisy and deceit. Their very heart is pure.

How are those pure in heart blessed? They see God with the eye of faith now and will see His Glory in the New Jerusalem. The Sermon on the Mount presents the counter-culture that challenges the culture of the world. The culture of the world and the counter-culture of Christ are at odds with each other. Those who are blessed are those who tend to their hearts rather than their status.

This Sermon shows us the standards, values, and priorities that are necessary for those seeking the counter-cultural in God’s kingdom. We must respond to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with significant seriousness. This is the picture of God’s alternative society that we were created to live in.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Sallie Rathbone, Deacon


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