Friday, January 30, 2015

Matthew 5:1-12  

You don't get rich by being faithful. We've all known faithful people who remained folks of modest means and frequent sorrows throughout their lives. What does Jesus mean, then, in the Sermon on the Mount when he says that the poor (Luke's version) or the poor in spirit (Matthew's version) are "blessed"?

Jesus must have meant something other than "rich".  He speaks to a humble and disenfranchised crowd who know that their economic fortunes are limited and vulnerable to catastrophic change.  In the Sermon on the Mount he goes nowhere towards promising them that the blessedness will translate into monthly income, houses or possessions.  Jesus intends these words about blessedness as a play on words and a paradox.  He, himself, is living as a guest in Peter's house in Capernaum.  His first disciples, rather than increasing their family incomes, are all walking away from their livelihoods in order to follow Jesus.  

We might be driven to the internet or to to our Greek dictionary to find out what the word "blessed" (makarios) meant when Luke and Matthew used it.  With its root makar meaning "extended" or lengthened or increased,  it would appear that the blessed ones, the makarioi, are going to have some bigness about them and something - if not earthly riches - in abundance.  Lots of it - the full measure, pressed down and overflowing!  

But what is it?  What is like riches - but not?   Or like the earthly harvest of fish, grain and miscellaneous revenue but attractive enough to prompt capable people away from these things?  Why do they follow and why do they believe?   Do we not marvel a bit at their freedom?  
There is no question that the words of Jesus, then and now, access a deep hunger that earthly enterprise with its uncertain and transient blessings will not satisfy.   Faith becomes the chief asset in this new economy.  The bottom line is blessing - satisfaction that following Jesus has assured our participation in the big world of the Kingdom, the discovery that other followers have become our family and joy that we have discovered a purpose in life beyond carving out an abundant niche for ourselves.  

The parables and sayings which follow in the Gospels will further unpack this to a group of new disciples who, from time to time, will waver in their newfound faith.
We shall be attentive!